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Outbound Adventures: To save money, chase the fare not the destination
Published in Ahram Online on 03 - 12 - 2016

Since Egypt decided to float its currency last month, prices have doubled as the value of the pound has sunk, and travelling has begun to seem a lot harder.

Given that, learning how to plan a budget-conscious trip is no longer a luxury; in fact, it's an essential skill for every traveller. Below you'll find some essential tips to help you choose where to go next, even if your purse strings are tight.

Check the weather before the destination (Photo: Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

What are travel seasons?

Anyone familiar with tourism industry terms should know what seasons are. Every destination has three different travel seasons:
High season (peak): Peak season is when the destination is most in demand. The weather is best and plenty of tourists flood the country. For example, Europe in summer is flooded with students on their holidays and wealthy Americans wanting to take a Euro trip. It is the best time of the year to hit Europe's beaches, but also the most expensive time, and the most crowded.
Low season (off-peak): In off-peak the demand is at its lowest level, the weather is harsh (either too cold, too hot or rainy), and most of the hotels are empty. The prices are cheapest during this season, but of course, it's not the best time to visit. For example, Europe in winter is cold and rainy and not so much fun.
Shoulder season: The magical season for smart travellers which falls between high and low season. The weather is just starting to get harsher, but the places are still not crowded, and prices are much lower than in high season.
Check here for a comprehensive list of shoulder seasons for every country in the world.

Note: Regional events and festivals also affect the cost of travel; check here for a list of global festivals.

My small room in Prague (Photo: Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

What about the weather?

Weather affects your decision of where to go, so you have to check if this is the right time to visit a particular city. To do so, I recommend using this excellent website BestTimeToVisit.com: you can choose a month to see a list of destinations which have the best weather.

Alternatively, you can apply your "weather filters" of maximum/minimum temperature and accepted humidity levels to generate a recommendation list, like the one above for a search I conducted to see where I could go in October.

Cost of living

In Hurghada airport. Check the airfare, you may find cheaper tickets from Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh airports. (Photo: Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

Usually, when you decide on the destination, you are very concerned with the airfare. Flights are a significant chunk of your budget. But based on five years' experience of constant travelling, in fact airfare is only 40 percent of the total trip cost. The cost of life, aka food, transportation, accommodation, visits etc are much more important. So sometimes you can find a cheap flight to a destination that will cost you much more than another destination that requires a more expensive flight.
Getting to know the "cost of life" of a particular city is not an easy job. Luckily, there is a marvellous budget backpacker travel website called Price Of Travel.
It has this helpful concept called the Backpacker Index, which is a dollar value given for every city of the world. It calculates the value by adding up the cost of a dorm bed in a good hostel, three budget meals, two public transport rides, one paid cultural attraction, and three cheap beers.

The cities are ranked based on the index, and revised and re-ranked daily. So, compare your desired destinations on the index to help you evaluate how much you'd spend in each.

In Buda, the old city of Budapest, right in front of the famous Matthias church. (Photo: Nour Eldin Ebrahim)
Cost of plane tickets

Our travel nemesis: the airfare. The hardest part of travelling is always finding a cheap flight to your destination. Why not do it the other way around? Check the cheap airfares and choose one of those destinations to visit.

You can achieve that by using the nifty feature on my favourite airfare search engine: Skyscanner.net. On the main page, you can choose your country in the "From" section. And for the destination, write "Everywhere."

On the times of travel, you can specify not only a whole month, but also you can tell it to just pick the "cheapest month" in general. Now after hitting the search button, you will get a clean list of the cheapest airfares available to you.

Combine all the above criteria, and now you will be able to decide on your next destination like a smart traveller.

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